- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

The view of history that we get through the kitchen window is a more gentle view, not of war and politics, but of family and community and sharing.

Julia Child in the video documentary “Memory and Imagination: New Pathways to the Library of Congress,” 1993

Back in the 1950s, when Francine Haskins was growing up at 121 S St. NW in her mother’s house in the Bloomingdale section of Washington, Thanksgivings were filled with aunts, uncles and cousins — and their stories.

“When we were little, we listened to the stories they told,” says Mrs. Haskins, 56. “Now people are listening to my stories.”

They’ll be listening Sunday at the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Museum, when Mrs. Haskins — who has parlayed some of her early memories into two books for children, “I Remember ‘121’ ” and “Things I Like About Grandma” — tells her stories of growing up in Washington as part of the museum’s “Fifth Sunday” program.

It’s just one of several opportunities this weekend, centered on family, sharing and tradition, to extend the spirit of Thanksgiving beyond the day — and maybe inspire people to discover a Thanksgiving spirit that lasts all year.

• • •

Designed for children and parents, the interactive program at the Anacostia Museum lets adults revisit familiar stories and allows their children to experience ordinary things that were once extraordinary — such as having a red telephone or being the first household on the block to own a television.

“That was special back then,” says Mrs. Haskins, a professional artist, storyteller and dollmaker whose books for children grew out of her work designing dolls that were composites of people she knew. “Things like that became part of our family’s stories.”

An accompanying activity allows participants to craft their own paper dolls, with guidance from Mrs. Haskins, who remembers spreading out her own paper-doll patterns on the floor of 121 S St. NW.

“My mother used to make her own sewing patterns,” she says. “I think that’s when I learned to take on any challenge.”

That’s a life lesson that Mrs. Haskins, who has also given programs at area schools and at the Capital Children’s Museum, hopes to pass on to museum visitors. But the most important thing, she says, is that the program allows adults and children to be creative together, just as she did back at 121.

“We did things together then,” she says. “You’d look down the table, and everyone would be there.”

Of course, Thanksgiving isn’t only about family. Remembering blessings and sharing them with others less fortunate is also an important part of the holiday.

Thanksgiving at Food and Friends, the District-based food program on L Street SE that provides meals to people with life-threatening illnesses such as AIDS and cancer, started early this year. In fact, Thanksgiving at Food and Friends starts early every year, more than a week early. That’s when volunteers start preparing the turkeys that will be the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving dinner for four that includes all the trimmings: stuffing, greens, rolls and even pumpkin and apple pies.

“It’s two weeks of prep and a month of work,” says executive chef Hilton Hunter, who worked for 17 years at area restaurants before moving to Food and Friends seven years ago. “We try to make it as American and homespun as we can.”

That means nearly 7,000 pounds of roasted turkey, in addition to everything else. Last year, Food and Friends gave away three apple and pumpkin pies — all baked by volunteers — with every Thanksgiving basket. And they’ve recently added collard greens to the feast, because so many of their clients remember eating them as part of the Thanksgiving meal when they were young.

It’s an effort that couldn’t take place without the contributions of volunteers who not only prepare the food but also deliver it. More than 800 people volunteer here a year, including groups from the corporate world who use the experience as a vehicle for team building.

“I started after a colleague of mine died from AIDS,” Thursday crew leader Mel Goldberg says. “He requested donations be made to Food and Friends. I decided to volunteer, liked it, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Mr. Goldberg also brought in three of his Capitol Hill neighbors, who now make up the bulk of the regular Thursday volunteer staff.

Thanksgiving is so big at Food and Friends that the regular Thursday crew actually takes the day off because there are so many other eager volunteers on that day.

“People bring their whole families,” Mr. Hunter says. “They’re done by 1, so there is plenty of time for their own celebrations.”

Some of those volunteers are one-timers who come in only on Thanksgiving. Many more, however, return to volunteer again and again — because extending the spirit of Thanksgiving shouldn’t stop at the weekend.

“Come and see us in February,” Mr. Goldberg says. “That’s when we really need people.”

So Others Might Eat, on O Street Northeast, also has plenty of volunteer opportunities. But beyond Thanksgiving dinner, its big event is today’s second annual Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger, a 3K to 5K walk, trot or run to benefit SOME and the WB channel 50 Family Fund, a fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation. It begins at 8:30 a.m. today, most appropriately at the “Awakening” statue at Hains Point.

• • •

At Georgetown University Hospital, which boasts one of the larger volunteer programs among area hospitals, the volunteers will be out on Thanksgiving and well beyond.

“So many people are calling or e-mailing us every single day,” says Sara Marion, manager of volunteer services at the hospital. She credits community-service programs at area high schools with bringing more young people into the program to work alongside the retired people and stay-at-home ladies who had been the backbone of the program.

Volunteers work a minimum of four hours a week, and some staff the concierge desk and deliver flowers. Many, however, prefer interacting with patients directly, reading to them aloud, playing games or even just having conversation.

“It really has an impact on patient care,” Mrs. Marion says. “Patients often do get better faster with more interaction.”

This year, there will be a special addition to the volunteer staff. The members of the Georgetown University football team will be kicking off a year of service at the hospital this Thanksgiving season. All 96 of them.

The concept came from the coach, Bob Benson.

“The responsibility of being a student-athlete and being part of an athletic program is to relate to people and do good works for people,” he says.

Taking the team to Georgetown University Hospital, though, was a very personal mission for the coach, who had logged many hours there as the parent of a sick newborn.

“I was so impressed by the people there, I thought that I could get my kids in the hospital to help out,” he says.

Forget what you may have heard about self-indulgent jocks who spend their spare time pursuing their own pleasure. Many of the football team’s members, Mrs. Marion said, already had considerable experience with volunteering.

“It was amazing how many of them already had experience in community service,” says Mrs. Marion.

Of course, not all have had experience in doing what Georgetown University Hospital has in store for them: holding and reading aloud to babies in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit.

“They’ll be continuing throughout the year,” Mrs. Marion said. “This is the first time we’ve done this, and we’re all very excited.”

• • •

Naturally, volunteering on Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you have to give up the meal. After all, that’s part of the tradition.

There is something about the Thanksgiving meal that captures a bit of the American quality of the holiday. Practically everyone has a turkey — that’s something we share — but the side dishes help demonstrate our individuality, spanning regional tastes and ethnic variations.

Something of the same sort of riffing on a theme can be seen in American quilts, particularly at the Textile Museum’s exhibition “African American Quilts from the Robert & Helen Cargo Collection.”

Quilts have always been a way to preserve memory — of home, family, friends. Some illustrate religious or social themes; others are geometric and figure representations of home and hearth with names such as “Wedding Ring” and “Log Cabin.” Taken together, they all have special significance during Thanksgiving.

That’s why quilts are the centerpiece of the Textile Museum’s family program this Saturday, when parents and children will have the opportunity to make “quilt cards” reminiscent of designs from the exhibition, watch an exhibition of quiltmaking by black quilters from Baltimore and listen to jazz, courtesy of the Chuck Redd Duo.

“Some of our quilters have said that their quilts are like jazz,” says education director Theresa Esterlund, who gave Chuck Redd pictures of all of the quilts in the exhibition before he put together the music for the performance. “Improvisation is an important component of these quilts.”

Many quilts tell stories, such as Yvonne Wells’ piece “Being in Total Control of Herself,” which she based on her first trip to New York City.

While she was sewing that quilt, Miss Wells, who was wearing her nightgown at the time, found that a ribbon from her gown kept straying on to the material of the quilt. Whether from exasperation or inspiration or both, Miss Wells snipped the ribbon off the nightgown and sewed it onto the quilt.

Even here, improvisation is the key.

Quilt cards are made with a bit of the spirit of the quilter in mind, using pieces of cloth on hand to produce something beautiful and unique.

Of course, such an ambitious program couldn’t happen without the Textile Museum’s corps of volunteers, who will help to shepherd children and adults throughout the afternoon.

And everyone will have the opportunity to make connections between the activities and the exhibition, which will of course be open to the public that day.

It’s a great example of intergenerational learning,” Mrs. Esterlund says. “It’s something that kids and adults can do together and can take away.”

Plenty of chances to pitch in

If you are looking to spread the Thanksgiving spirit beyond today, here’s a list of activities and volunteer opportunities around town.

Family activities

• The Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture: 1901 Fort Place SE. Francine Haskins tells stories and leads participants in creating a paper doll ornament at 3 p.m. Sunday. Mrs. Haskins is the author of “I Remember ‘121’ ” (Children’s Book Press, 1991, $18.60) and “Things I Like About Grandma” (Children’s Book Press, 1994, $6.95 paper). The storytelling session is free, but reservations are suggested. 202/610-3292.

• The Textile Museum: 2320 S St. NW. The program “The Gift of Quilts” runs from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. In addition to making a quilt card, visitors can watch a quilting demonstration by the African American Quilters of Baltimore, and enjoy live jazz with the Chuck Redd Duo. Free. No reservations required. 202/667-0441.

Feeding those in need

• D.C. Central Kitchen: 425 Second St. NW. Advance notice required for anyone who wants to volunteer. All interested individuals and groups should contact the volunteer coordinator to schedule a date and time. Call 202/234-0707 or see www.dccentralkitchen.org/programs/volunteering.asp

• Food and Friends: 58 L St. SE. 202/488-8278. Volunteer hotline 202/863-1859. Or see www.foodandfriends.org

• National Capital Area Food Bank: 645 Taylor St. NE. Volunteer opportunities include sorting and repackaging food, leading education programs, staffing special events and preparing mailings. Call 202/526-5344 or see www.capitalareafoodbank.org

• So Others Might Eat: 71 O St. NW. Volunteer opportunities include preparation and serving of meals in SOME’s kitchen and dining rooms; provision of professional medical, dental, legal and social services; tutoring and mentoring; food collection; chores; caregiving; employment training; building work. For volunteer information call David Bright at 202/797-0701, ext. 103 or e-mail him at [email protected] See the Web site at www.some.org

Hospital volunteer programs — a sampling

• Children’s National Medical Center: 111 Michigan Ave. NW. For Volunteer Services call 202/884-2062 or see www.cnmc.org.

• Georgetown University Hospital: 3800 Reservoir Road NW. At the Web site, www.georgetownuniversityhospital.org, click on “Be a volunteer.” You can download an application, see a listing of orientation dates, and find out more about what it takes to be a hospital volunteer. Call 202/444-5545 to schedule a session.

• George Washington University Hospital: 900 23d St. NW. Call Volunteer Services at 202/715-5310 or see www.gwhospital.com

m Holy Cross Hospital: 1500 Forest Glen Road, Silver Spring. For Volunteer Services call 301/754-7305 or see www.holycrosshealth.org.

• Hospital for Sick Children: 1731 Bunker Hill Road NE. For Volunteer Services call 202/635-6190 or see www.hfscsite.org.

m Howard University Hospital: 2041 Georgia Ave. NW. Call 202/865-1470 or see www.huhosp.org/patient_care/volunteer.htm

• Providence Hospital: 1150 Varnum St. NE. Volunteer Services 202/269-7759 or see www.srat@prov hosp.org.

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